Monday, December 13, 2010

For the Student Christian Movement at 50...(December 11, 2010 at UP CRL)

If we read our Bibles and pray everyday, we will grow, grow, and grow in the knowledge that there are two kinds of sermons in the New Testament that can get one killed. Both we find in Luke’s work. In Acts, Paul preaching goes on and on and on that eventually Eutychus, a young person sitting by the window, falls asleep and falls to his death. In Luke, Jesus preaches a “gospel for the poor and liberation for the captives” in Nazareth, before his town mates, and almost gets killed for doing so.

As you celebrate your 50th birthday as a progressive movement of Christian students, let me remind you of the SCM’s favorite bible passage.

Jeremiah 1:7-10
1:7 The LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ But go to whomever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 1:8 Do not be afraid of those to whom I send you, for I will be with you to protect you,” says the LORD.1:9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I will most assuredly give you the words you are to speak for me. 1:10 Know for certain that I hereby give you the authority to announce to nations and kingdoms that they will be uprooted and torn down, destroyed and demolished, rebuilt and firmly planted.” This is the kind of message, then and now, that can get the messenger killed.

So, Jeremiah’s reaction to God’s call was natural. When he said, “I am too young,” he meant more than his age. He was afraid. Jeremiah’s mission was to proclaim judgment and redemption. He was to announce to nations and kingdoms that they will be uprooted and torn down, destroyed and demolished, rebuilt and firmly planted. Do not forget, Jesus was almost killed when he preached his first sermon. It was natural to be afraid. Even Moses was afraid when God called him to deliver God’s people from bondage. Jeremiah’s message to nations and kingdoms still stand. Moses’ call to liberation is as important as it was 3 thousand years ago. And Jesus’ message of good news to the poor, the one that eventually led to his arrest, torture, and public execution, is as vital and as relevant as the first time it was preached.

Sixty-two years and one day ago, in a rare moment of grace, humanity came together and proclaimed that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family serve as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; that it is essential, if humans are not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last a resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law; that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; and that they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood. We pledged our collective commitment to these declarations.

Moreover, sixty-two years and one day ago we proclaimed that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Sixty-two years ago, humanity pledged “never again” to the injustices wrought on the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and their children, and we declared “enough!” to the inhumanities effected by emperors, kings, and their ilk.

Unfortunately, sixty-two years and one day later, there are still emperors, and kings, and rulers who wield power over life and death. There are still sons and daughters whom these kings order to be tortured and killed. There are still countless and nameless sons, daughters, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers who are abducted, never to be seen again. Everyday, in our country, in Palestine, in so many parts of our world, daughters and sons, many not even 12 years old, are violently taken away from their loved ones: snatched, imprisoned, and violated.

Sixty-two years and one day later, there are still young children who are arrested in the dead of night for throwing stones at tanks and armored personnel carriers. There are still rural health workers who are illegally detained and branded as communist bomb-makers for working among the poorest of the poor in the most far-flung barrios. And there are still bishops, pastors, deaconesses, and youth leaders whose bodies are impaled for opening their homes, their hearts, and their lives to those whose only hope is God.

Today, December 11, 2010, is exactly sixty-two years and one day later. The emperors and kings are still alive. Their empires and kingdoms still stand. But so is Jeremiah. So is Moses. And Miriam. And Deborah. And Jesus. They were alone in the biblical text. Right now, today, in our context, they are not. They are legion. They are alive in the Student Christian Movement. As they have been for the past fifty years.

Emperors and kings have the power to kill. But God's power is greater than death. The empire can kill Bishop Alberto Ramento but God can raise up ten more to take his place. Kings and rulers can kill Edison Lapuz and Eden Marcellana but God can raise up one hundred to take their place. For every prophet whose blood is spilled for love of country, for serving the people, for ministering to those whose only hope is God, God will raise up a thousand more...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Give Us This Day our Daily Bread...

The different religious groups in Palestine in the first century, like many groups today, were known by the prayers they offered. Jesus’ disciples wanted the same thing so Jesus obliged. If we read our Bibles then we know that Luke’s Jesus prayed a lot. But Jesus’ prayers, and the prayer he taught his disciples, were not individualistic, pietistic supplications. They were community prayers; prayers on actualizing God’s reign on earth. In the Gospel of Luke and its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, the test of one’s relationship with God was proven by one’s relationship with people, especially the poor, the orphans, and the widows; those whose only was God. The test of one’s love for God is proven by one’s love for one’s neighbor.

When Luke’s Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he was lifting up a peasant’s petition for today’s food, echoing the farmer’s prayer for daily sustenance in the book of Proverbs; he was mouthing the hope of the dispossessed farmers for land and the dream of the daily wage earners for justice; he was also declaring explicitly whose side God was on.

When Luke’s Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he does not expect the powerful landlords of his time to distribute the lands they have amassed; he does not expect the Roman or Jewish courts to pass laws that protect the poor and the dispossessed; he does not expect the rich to sell everything they have, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him…

When Luke’s Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he celebrates the peasants’ sharing of the little they had, even rising at midnight to give three loaves of bread to a persistent friend in need; he affirms poor communities’ capacity to share meals and all things in common, selling their meager possessions, and distributing the proceeds to all, as they had need; he believes that God’s reign has come and God has chosen to reveal it among shepherds, among the poor, the imprisoned, and the oppressed…

We, those who take pride in calling ourselves Christian, do not have the monopoly on bread. The bread that can meet the world’s hunger is the bread we cook together. Each one contributing what each can. Because we—Christian or not—are each other’s keepers.

God’s shalom is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, just wages for teachers and laborers, decent homes for the homeless, justice for the oppressed, care for the elderly, the sick and the dying, land for the tenants of Hacienda Luisita and millions of other dispossessed farmers, freedom for the Morong 43 and other political prisoners, solidarity with those whose only hope is God.

Last Monday, July 26, many of us were given the privilege to join those whom God has chosen to side with: the farmers, the fisherfolk, the laborers, indigenous peoples, the masses… outside congress for the People’s SONA. They taught us a lot. We still have much to learn from them. They will teach us how to cook bread for the world, together. They will teach us how to struggle for life, for justice, for liberty, and for land.

More importantly, they are the only ones who can really show us what it means to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Saturday, July 24, 2010

FOR PNOY: FREE THE 43; FREE IN 43

Among the Priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan who chanced upon the wounded Jew on the road connecting Jerusalem and Jericho (in Luke 10: 30-37), the Samaritan was the one who showed mercy, the one who was neighbor to the person who was left half-dead, the one who stopped and helped a brother in need. That is why we call the Samaritan Good. He did what God’s Law required. He did what Jesus commanded. But more importantly, he did what sisters and brothers do for one another.
Like the Morong 43. We call health workers Good Samaritans. We even have Good Samaritan Hospitals to celebrate what they do for the sick, for the wounded, for the ill, for those whose only hope is God. Community-based health workers, most especially, minister to the “least among Jesus’ sisters and brothers.”
Thus, the Morong 43’s illegal arrest last February, their imprisonment, the torture many of them have experienced, the harassment they have endured, the lies that the military spun about them during the last months of the Arroyo regime, and their continuing illegal detention under the Aquino administration have driven countless people to exclaim, “Only in the Philippines are Good Samaritans demonized and victimized!”
This madness should stop now. This gross violation of human rights must end now. Senator Ninoy Aquino Jr. was illegally detained by the Marcos dictatorship for several years. Vowing to end political repression, President Cory Aquino, released all political prisoners during the early days of her term.
We call on President Noynoy Aquino, in honor of his late parents, Ninoy and Cory, to order the release of the Morong 43 and all political prisoners. We call on PNoy to order their release as part of his First State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2010.
If he does not order their release on Monday, we call on people of faith everywhere to begin a 43-day prayer chain to start the same day. We will pray for each of one of the Morong 43 in each of those 43 days. We will pray and hope and demand that they be set free on July 27. If they are not, we will pray for their freedom on July 28, and on July 29, and the next day… On each of those 43 days, we will pray that God give PNoy the wisdom, the humility, and the courage to do what is just and what is right. And on the 43rd day, on September 6, 2010, we will hold thanksgiving rites to celebrate the release of the Morong 43 and the release of all political prisoners.
43 days of prayer:
for each of the Morong 43;
for freedom for the Morong 43;
for PNoy to do what is just and what is right.
Again, we call on President Noynoy Aquino to honor the memory of his late parents.
Free the Morong 43. Free all political prisoners.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bad News for Good Samaritans

If we read our Bibles and pray every day, we will grow, grow, and grow in the knowledge that serving God and serving our neighbor is actually one commandment. This is explicit in Luke 10. If God is our parent, as Jesus taught us, then we are family—Kapamilya at Kapuso—we are sisters and brothers. God’s question to Cain, found in Genesis, remains the same—“Where is your brother? Where is your sister?”

Yesterday, today, and tomorrow—our primary task, no, our primary responsibility as a child of God is to be each other’s keepers. The only way to serve God our Parent is to serve God’s children, is to love our brothers and sisters. This is the surprise of the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25. This is the message of the Johannine gospel and epistles. This is the heart of the Letter of James. This is the gist of the Law according to Paul as found in Romans 13:9 and Galatians 5:14.

This is the point of the Parable of the Samaritan. Among the Priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan who chanced upon the wounded Jew on the road connecting Jerusalem and Jericho, the Samaritan was the one who showed mercy, the one who was neighbor to the person who was left half-dead, the one who stopped and helped a brother in need.

That is why we call the Samaritan Good. He did what the Law required. He did what Jesus commanded. But more importantly, he did what sisters and brothers do for one another. Like the Morong 43. We call health workers Good Samaritans. We even have Good Samaritan Hospitals to celebrate what they do for the sick, for the wounded, for the ill, for those whose only hope is God.

Community-based health workers, most especially, minister to the “least among Jesus’ sisters and brothers.”

Thus, the Morong 43’s illegal arrest, their continuing illegal detention, the torture many of them have experienced, the harassment they endure, and the lies that the military has spun about them have driven a shocked world to ask, “Has the Arroyo administration gone mad?” Only in the Philippines, under this morally bankrupt administration, are Good Samaritans demonized and victimized.

This madness should stop now. If there is a hell, then Arroyo and her minions do not deserve to go there. They deserve worse.